Working with European institutions
Working with the European Union
The European Union (EU) is a global political and economic actor, including on protection issues. It is engaged in promoting the Global Compact on Refugees and is a strong UNHCR partner.
UNHCR works with the EU to better protect refugees in the EU and globally through policy and advocacy efforts and court interventions. UNHCR advocates for support to countries and regions where most forcibly displaced people are, and for EU laws and policies to be aligned with the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol. The EU is also a top donor to UNHCR, helping deliver life-saving assistance to and durable solutions for people forced to flee around the world.
Policy and advocacy
The EU institutions play an important role in designing the asylum legislation and policies of its 27 Member States as well as monitoring and evaluating implementation. UNHCR works to bring about sustainable and workable asylum reform, with a focus on fair and fast asylum procedures, responsibility sharing between states, increased legal pathways and enhanced integration.
UNHCR also advocates for and supports the EU’s continued focus on refugee and forced displacement issues globally. This includes ensuring EU political and financial support for the countries and regions where most forcibly displaced people are.
In order to bring about change, UNHCR works with a range of actors including EU stakeholders, civil society and the media. UNHCR coordinates high-level meetings, produces strategic reports and provides written advice and comments on EU draft laws and legislation.
UNHCR also issues recommendations to each incoming Presidency of the Council of the EU, with the Member State holding the rotating Presidency playing a key role in advancing the EU’s agenda on asylum and migration.
The EU is one of UNHCR’s top donors, supporting our work globally with earmarked financial contributions. It is through these partnerships that UNHCR can deliver life-saving assistance, protection and solutions for the tens of millions of refugees, internally displaced and stateless people globally.
For more information about how UNHCR is funded by the EU, please visit the Global Focus website, UNHCR’s main operational reporting portal for donors and other key partners.
UNHCR’s Brussels Office and Liaison Offices
UNHCR has a dedicated office in Brussels working daily with counterparts in the EU institutions and agencies. This includes the European Commission, the External Action Service, the European Parliament and the Council of the EU. We also work with EU states’ permanent missions and with civil society, lawyers, think tanks and the media to bring about change. In the framework of its strategic litigation priorities, UNHCR intervenes as a third party before the Court of Justice of the European Union.
We have liaison offices to the EU Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) in Warsaw and the EU Agency for Asylum (EUAA) in Valletta. UNHCR works closely with the EUAA on operational matters, including in the 12 EU Member States and States outside the EU where the EUAA has an operational presence. UNHCR participates in the development of EUAA tools, guidance and training modules and sits on the EUAA Management Board. UNHCR has engaged with Frontex, advising on the establishment and implementation of safeguards and mechanisms to enhance respect for fundamental rights, including the right to seek asylum. UNHCR currently co-chairs the Frontex Consultative Forum on Fundamental Rights, together with the EU Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA).
Contact details: UNHCR Representation for EU Affairs, Belgium, Ireland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, Avenue Louise 283, 1050 Brussels, Belgium. +32 2 627 59 99
Key documents and calls to the European Union
Comments, reports and proposals to the EU's institutions and agencies
- Follow the Money IV: The use of AMIF and ISF-BV funds outside the EU 16 Nov 2022
- UNHCR Resettlement Needs, Complementary Pathways, and Key Priorities for 2023: Summary of UNHCR Recommendations to the European Union 1 Jul 2022
- UNHCR Resettlement Needs, Complementary Pathways, and Key Priorities for 2022: Summary of UNHCR Recommendations to the European Union 9 Jul 2021
Recommendations to the Presidency of the Council of the EU
- Sweden and Spain – January 2023
- France and Czech Republic – January 2022
- Portugal and Slovenia – January 2021
- Croatia and Germany – January 2020
- Finland – June 2019
- Romania – December 2018
- Federal Republic of Austria – June 2018
- Republic of Bulgaria – December 2017
- Malta and Estonia – December 2016
- Slovakia – July 2016
- Netherlands – January 2016
For more comments, reports and proposals please see UNHCR’s Refworld website
Working with European Courts
UNHCR undertakes court interventions in strategic litigation cases before national and supranational courts in Europe. These interventions are part of UNHCR’s broader judicial engagement and form an integral part of UNHCR’s protection strategy.
Interventions have taken place across Europe and on a wide range of issues, aiming to assist courts to ensure compliance with international and European refugee and human rights law.
- UNHCR interventions before the Court of Justice of the EU
- UNHCR interventions before the European Court of Human Rights
Working with the Council of Europe
UNHCR works with the Council of Europe to ensure that their standard-setting instruments and human rights monitoring mechanisms continue to address the needs and guarantee the rights of refugees and other persons of concern to UNHCR.
Our Representation to the European Institutions in Strasbourg provides asylum and international refugee law expertise and information on situations in countries of origin to the various entities of the Council of Europe. This includes the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), the Department for the Execution of ECtHR Judgments, the Parliamentary Assembly, the Secretariat of the Committee of Ministers, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, the Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG) on Migration and Refugees, the European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR).
UNHCR also works with the Council of Europe’s monitoring bodies such as the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT), the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), the Group of Experts on Action against Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (GREVIO) and the Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA).
UNHCR contributes to and promotes the online HELP (Human Rights Education for Legal Professional) courses and the European Qualifications Passport for Refugees (EQPR).
Working with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)
Both the OSCE and UNHCR’s mandates are linked to conflict management and addressing displacement. The two organizations work closely on a wide range of conceptual and operational issues. This close cooperation is particularly important at this time as the number of persons of concern to UNHCR within the OSCE area is on a steady rise.
UNHCR’s Liaison Office in Vienna represents UNHCR to the OSCE, liaising with the 57 OSCE participating States, its 11 Partners for Co-operation, OSCE Executive Structures and Institutions such as the Secretariat, the Conflict Prevention Center, the Transnational Threats Department/Border Security and Management Unit, Special Representative/Coordinator for Combatting Trafficking in Human Beings, the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, the High Commissioner on National Minorities, the Representative on Freedom of the Media, and the OSCE Border Management Staff College.
This collaboration has resulted in joint OSCE-UNHCR multiphase projects, including:
- Protection Checklist: Addressing Displacement and Protection of Displaced Populations and Affected Communities along the Conflict Cycle: a Collaborative Approach
- OSCE-UNHCR ‘Handbook on Statelessness in the OSCE Area: International Standards and Good Practices’
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